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  • Writer's pictureNorthPoint

Pixels To Print: Creating & Editing Patterns

Creating patterns is another one of those magnificent features of Adobe Illustrator that makes designing much more efficient and allows for a much more accurate set up when trying to create a balanced repeated design. Let’s say you are trying to create a beehive hexagonal pattern to add to the background of your design.  For some of you (and we have ALL been there), you may approach this by creating a hexagon with the shape tool and then copying and pasting until you have completely filled up your space.  Now this could certainly be one way to design a pattern in illustrator, but what I will say is that it is definitely not the most efficient, especially if you plan to fill up a large space with this pattern.

Let me take you through the very few easy steps to creating a pattern, along with some tips and tricks that make editing your pattern completely hassle free:

Creating a Pattern

1.  Create the object or design that you want to be repeated in your pattern.

2.  Select the object and go to Object>Pattern>Make.  This will pull up pattern editing mode, where you will have access to the pattern editing panel and all of the different options when creating your pattern.  While you are in pattern editing mode, you’ll be able to see a preview of your pattern as you change the settings in the pattern options panel.  You’ll see that with this panel, you have the ability to name the pattern, choose a tile type or how the pattern repeats, size the pattern tile to the artwork, change the width and height of the pattern tile, set how the artwork overlaps, and more! Once you’re happy with the way your pattern looks, click ‘Done’ in the grey panel at the top of the screen to save the pattern to the swatches panel, where you’ll be able to apply it as a fill or stroke later on.

3.  Apply your pattern to either the fill or stroke of an object by simply clicking on the object, choosing either the stroke or fill of the object in the properties panel, and then selecting your pattern in the swatches panel!

Editing a Pattern

To edit your pattern, double-click the pattern swatch in the swatches panel to open up pattern editing mode again, and from here you can change the spacing, color, or anything else! 

Tip: If you want to manipulate the pattern within an object without manipulating the object, open the transform panel and select ‘Transform Pattern Only’ in the options menu. Similarly, if you want to change the size of only the shape and not the pattern, select ‘Transform Object Only’. 

(Shortcut: you can also hold down the tilde key and drag a pattern within a shape to only move the pattern, but this doesn’t work when changing the size of the pattern.) 

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